Nigerians should be appreciating the “climate change” that has taken place in the National Assembly coinciding with the inauguration of the 9th Assembly with Senator Ahmed Lawan as Senate President and Femi Gbajabiamila as Speaker, House of Representatives. From the smooth and amicable proceedings that produced the new leaders of the legislature, it was evident that a new dispensation devoid of crisis-prone intrigues was firmly in place and this is what democracy for good governance envisaged.
In an inaugural speech, Lawan, the president of the 9th National Assembly, promised to be fair to all his colleagues irrespective of political, ethnic or religious affiliations and work to ensure best global parliamentary practice. He promised to run a Senate that would be responsive to the needs of the masses.
Lawan, who is not new to parliamentary business, must be speaking from experience of the turbulence that plagued the 8th Assembly, when the Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki-led National Assembly held the Executive to ransom and frustrated Government business.
It was glaring to every discerning mind that Saraki’s posture towards the Executive slowed the pace of development. Lawan has decided to avoid such undesirable tendencies with a promise to ensure a Senate for the people, which can only be achieved when the Executive also operates smoothly to deliver the dividends of democracy.
An early manifestation of this is the speedy confirmation by the Senate of the appointment of Aliyu Abubakar as a non-executive commissioner on the board of the National Communications Commission. Abubakar, an indigene of Bauchi State, was re-nominated by President Muhammadu Buhari despite his earlier rejection for the position by 8th National Assembly. An attempt by some senators to halt Abubakar’s confirmation was this time around averted by the Senate President. Also confirmed same day were other appointments made by the Executive, including Prof. Habu Galadima as the substantive Director-General, National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies in Jos.
The recent screening process for ministerial nominees was additional evidence of a welcome departure from the rancorous partisanship and divide-and-rule manipulative leadership that marred critical proceedings on strategic national issues, turning blind eyes to the negative impact on legitimate aspirations of Nigerians for accelerated development on all fronts with all hands on deck.
Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives also identified himself and committed his colleagues to a positive transformation in the posture and content of proceedings when he declared at his inauguration that “our country is presently confronted with a myriad of problems and it is our responsibility as members of this institution to set aside political, ideological and other differences that may distract us from the assignment the Nigerian people have sent us here to perform. Whatever political party each one of us may belong, we must be conscious of the fact that Nigerians are truly desirous of good governance and are looking to us to be the agents that will through meaningful legislation combat security, poverty, corruption and other problems and contradictions that have held our country back and stunted our development”.
While we commend the entire membership of the 9th Assembly for this patriotic turn of events, it is now incumbent on Nigerians to demonstrate the confidence they reposed in their respective members of the Assembly, by channeling all their grievances and agitations to the Assembly, which is the only recognized institution in a democracy for citizens to ventilate their feelings and frustrations and seek attention and redress.
This call is particularly necessary in view of the increasing tendency for the creation of so-called “pressure groups” for the purpose of venting agitations and expressing views rather than taking advantage of the national legislature which is empowered not only to listen to such voices but to legislate appropriately to resolve the issues in contention.
From letter-writing statesmen going public with matters solely for political propaganda purposes we now have others positioning themselves as “leaders of thought”, canvassing ethnic or geopolitical aspirations and grievances, or summoning meetings under their NGOs to issue communiqués on their deliberations all of which have no binding effect on government or the legislature.
Most culpable for the deliberate by-passing of the constitutionally-approved institutions and procedures for pursuing the resolution of grievances or agitating for reforms are those who absurdly call themselves “pro-democracy activists” but always prefer confrontational street protests that undermine national security. Most of them are urban groups with unverifiable mandates, sponsored by agents of foreign interests, to create chaos and destabilize the government.
Even the lingering issue of “restructuring” which means different things to different people but generally requires constitutional amendments and new legislation to be actualized, must be forwarded to the National Assembly to undergo deliberations and legislative processing, if found worthy.
In addition, Nigerians must inculcate democratic ethos and civilized conduct. We must steer clear of taking the law into our hands while protesting because there can be no justification for destroying public or private property or threatening to do so. The freedom to protest covers only peaceful protests and definitely does not encroach on the rights of other citizens to peaceful lives.
Political parties have a major role to play in creating greater awareness of the advantages of the constitutional avenues for seeking redress of political grievances in particular and the readiness of the National Assembly to work for the people irrespective of ethnic, religious or political identities. This is the next level in deepening democracy that all must embrace.
. Zuru, a teacher, writes from Zuru, Kebbi State.